Courtès, intimately involved with the Founder from the beginning, is quoted as saying nostalgically that the missions of their first times together as Missionaries were never surpassed. (H. Courtès, Mémoires, quoted in RAMBERT, Volume I, p. 228)
It was the enthusiasm of something new – a group of men experiencing the excitement of seeing that their ideal worked, and the sense of wonder at perceiving the results. With each mission, their ideals were transformed and strengthened. Eugene participated with them until 1823, and in these years he injected into these missions all that was special of his own vision and spirit. Thereafter he was fully involved as Superior General, albeit at a distance, in all the details of the missions until the Congregation became too big for him to be intimately involved with details.
His interest in missions was not limited to the Oblates but overflowed to his diocese. As Bishop of Marseilles he actively encouraged the parish missions, and even wrote a Pastoral Letter to his diocese supporting their being regularly conducted. As a young priest he had recognised the importance of the parish missions and had dedicated his life to this ministry – now, thirty years later he was unwavering in the same conviction. In a beautiful passage in his Diary in 1846 he wrote about his joy at being able to participate in the ceremonies of a mission as Bishop of his diocese:
[Closure of the mission at St-Antoine]. What beautiful days the concluding ceremonies of missions are for a bishop! People must never be grateful to me that I never refuse an invitation to be there. It is a consolation to see a parish reconciled with God, to receive at the hands of its shepherd the Body of Jesus Christ, to speak edifying words to this portion of my flock, to fulfil in this way the important duty of preaching which is obligatory for bishops, to give confirmation to people who would not otherwise receive it – it surpasses all the fatigue involved. I believe that I would commit a mortal sin if, being able so easily to give the Holy Spirit and produce perfect Christians, I refrained for frivolous reasons from responding to the desires of the souls who have been entrusted to me.
Diary, 22 March 1846, O.W. XXII